Mark Normand kicks off his first of three sold-out shows at Enmore Theatre this week.
In times before every comedian was immediately accessible through a couple of clicks, the idea of one touring a country for the very first time doing theatres was more or less unheard of. Clubs? Certainly. Nothing on the scale of, say, the Enmore Theatre in Sydney, though. Thanks to the information superhighway, however, New Orleans-born and New York-based comic Mark Normand is here at that very venue on his maiden voyage down under for a sold-out show – the first of three this week, by the way. It's an impressive feat in and unto itself, and even before the man of the hour picks up a mic to let out his catchphrase (“Comedy!”), this is an achievement that deserves to be commended.
Of course, those that are in the know are well aware that Normand is far from an overnight sensation. He's over 15 years into his career at this juncture, with Netflix and TV appearances littered throughout his CV. His affable everyman persona has converted into mass appeal, and the Funny Guy tour showcases exactly how his charm becomes a tangible part of his act.
Consider this: If any other cis straight white male comedian was leading you up to taboo topics such as trans rights, the Israel-Palestine conflict or diversity in media, you could more or less call exactly where things were headed from a mile away. Fish-in-a-barrel, “I identify as a helicopter” Redditor claptrap. Where Normand subverts is taking you to a different kind of joke entirely – for instance, the gag about media diversity ends up being a dunk on corporate back-patting, with Normand pointing out that the porn industry has been much more diverse for much longer. They get big laughs not just for Normand's rhythmic execution but for taking the scenic route from A to B in the process.
He's not punching down, you see. He's punching sideways – in turn, providing some thought-provoking laughter for the largely cis straight white male conservative audience. That's not a blanket assumption, by the way – the room went completely silent when Normand asked if any gay people were in the room, and only a handful of responses came when he asked after any immigrants in the room. This may be symptomatic of mainstream American comedy largely being a boys' club, but if Normand's well-paced and snappy repertoire is able to alter any concrete perspectives, then that's half the battle right there.
Ultimately, Normand's only proper fumble of the night is right at the end. After delivering his signature sign-off (“Thanks, I'm Kevin Hart!”), Normand checks his watch and realises he's a couple of minutes under time. Rather than simply leave it at that, the veteran comic makes a rookie mistake: Asking the audience for topic ideas. “DO A SHOEY!” bellows some Roganite from the back stalls. “JOE ROGAN!” barks another from the mezzanine. Some are even less imaginative than that: “SAM MORRIL!” several punters yell out, referring to Normand's friend and We Might Be Drunk podcast co-host. “What exactly do you want me to say about him?” he responds. Valid point, too.
There's a reason he's up there, and we're out here, folks. Even when Normand attempts to wrangle some jokes out of the mess he's made for himself, the intoxicated crowd scream out new topics while he's trying to deliver the punchline. “I feel like we just had sex, and I've hung around for too long afterwards,” Normand quips. He's not wrong – best we put our pants back on and be grateful for the fun hook-up. We should do this again sometime, though. Call us?
Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter